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Arts Council Director to Host Arts Program on WHQR

From our friends at the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, generous sponsors of our 2013 and 2017 Fall Conferences:

Rhonda Bellamy

WILMINGTON—WHQR is pleased to announce a new local arts, culture and events program—Around Town with Rhonda Bellamy—to air on HQR News and Classical HQR beginning July 12.

Around Town with Rhonda Bellamy will be a five-minute interview feature that will air on HQR News (91.3 FM and 98.9 FM) on Fridays at 9:01 am and 3:01 pm; and Saturdays and Sundays at 7:01 am, 1:01 pm, and 6:01 pm. It will also air on Classical HQR (92. FM 7 fm, 96.7 FM and 102.3 FM) on Fridays at 10:01 am, 1:01 pm and 7:01 pm; and Saturdays and Sundays at 5:01 am and 11:01 am.

Rhonda will welcome guests from all over the Cape Fear Region, talking about arts, culture, community, and more. Future guests and dates include: weekend of July 19—artists from MC Erny at WHQR Gallery and one other; weekend of July 26—Wilmington Symphony Orchestra.

Rhonda Bellamy is Executive Director of the Arts Council of Wilmington/NHC. She has served on a variety of arts-related boards, including Cameron Art Museum, the Black Arts Alliance, Inc., and the North Carolina Black Film Festival, both of which she co-founded. In addition to her work in the arts, she has more than twenty years of experience in broadcast news. She previously served as news director for Cumulus Media’s five station radio cluster in Wilmington, as well as hosted a daily talk show. Bellamy has also authored and edited three books.

A graduate of North Carolina Central University, she has been honored as Women of the Year-New Hanover Human Relations Commission, YWCA Woman of Achievement in the Arts, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Arts Leaders (StarNews).

WHQR Station Manager says “Rhonda will be a wonderful addition to the WHQR family. Her knowledge of the arts community is unmatched and we are thrilled that she’ll be bringing her history and great voice to WHQR. We can’t wait to feature our local creative community on the air in this new feature.”

Bellamy adds, “It’s my honor to indulge my two passions in life—quality broadcasting and the arts. Around Town with Rhonda Bellamy will showcase the robust creative community that makes southeastern North Carolina such a great place to live, work, and create.”

WHQR Public Media is a non-profit, member-supported, community-based public radio station, broadcasting from Wilmington. A trusted source for NPR and local news, WHQR serves southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina with HQR News at 91.3fm and 98.9fm, and Classical HQR at 92.7fm and 102.3fm. WHQR offers award-winning national and local news, music, entertainment and interaction to expand knowledge, encourage artistic appreciation, engage our community and promote civil discourse.

A Shave and a Haircut…and Storytime

Where I grew up,  there was a laundrymat that also was a rock club, so you could do your laundry, drink a Hudepohl, and take in a live local musical act, all at the same time.

(Sadly, Sudsy Malone’s—revered by rockers who came of age then—closed in 2008 after a 20-plus year run. RIP!)

Businesses do this all the time, of course, perhaps the trendiest current example being the slew of businesses offering “Goats and [Fill in the Blank].”

Barbershops often spin themselves as places not only to get a haircut but also to drink a craft beer, watch sports, enjoy a traditional shave as part of a bachelor party, and more. They’ve always been community hubs.

So it seems natural that Prince Cuts Barbershop in Lexington, Kentucky, has launched a wildly successful “Books and Barbers” program. Kids in Kindergarten through 6th Grade can come in for a haircut and pick out a book they want to read to the barber. Children get to keep the book, and the barbershop will give them three dollars and a sticker on their way out.

This provides male role models for kids who may not have positive influences, and perhaps more importantly, puts books into children’s hands, the overwhelming benefits of which have been long-studied.

I hesitate to mention this to you legion of bibliophiles, who, if you’re like me, are always looking for somewhere to donate books, but yes, Prince Cuts Barbershop is in need of donations: Simon Vanderpool, 606-304-1173.

Doubleback Review Ignites Zombie Apocalypse

Lots of good stuff coming out of Sundress Publications these days, including the resurrection of “dead” creative writing, lost to shuttered journals and defunct online rags.

They’ve launched a new literary journal: Doubleback Review, a publication that “believes out-of-print should not mean out of mind.”

Doubleback Review will print pieces of any genre that were published by a journal that subsequently became defunct. In fact, Doubleback will only publish previously-published work from journals that no longer exist, a notably rare commission for a small indie publication.

“Let us resurrect your dead art,” implores their submission page, “let us love your beautiful zombies.”

This is great news, espeically for those of us who perhaps published stories in online magazines only to see those rags go belly-up and our work disappear into the ether. Doubleback Review offers the possibility that these “lost” published works may live again.

Doubleback Review furthers the mission of Doubleback Books, a Sundress imprint, which creates E-pubs for out-of-print books and collections.

Doubleback Review accepts submissions on a rolling basis for two issues to be published in April and October. Submissions are free. Writers from traditionally marginalized communities are particularly encouraged to submit their work.

For additional information, including submission guidelines and staff bios, visit You can also find Doubleback on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Sundress Publications was founded in 2000. They are entirely volunteer-run, publish chapbooks and full-length works in both print and digital formats, and host a variety of online journals. In 2013, Sundress founded the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) at Firefly Farms, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Nestled in an old-fashioned “holler” just twenty minutes from downtown, this picturesque 45-acre farm is the perfect artists’ residency where visitors can hone their creative crafts as they escape the routine of modern life. SAFTA accepts applications on a rolling basis.

On Tuesday we highlighted Sundress Publications’ new podcast, Shitty First Drafts, in a round-up of quality literary podcasts.

Some Literary Podcasts for You

It seems everyone these days is getting into the podcast game, from the Durham Performing Arts Center to the Pope (seriously).

And why not? Podcasts and audiobooks are a great way to entertain yourself while doing something mindless, and the best of these offer something additional through their audio production.

A few new literary podcasts have dropped recently, so we thought we’d highlight some with a literary bent. Enjoy!

6-Minute Stories
Everybody loves a good story. Hear true, personal stories by many writers on themes of “making do, bearing up, and overcoming adversity” and “discoveries, challenges, adventure,” appearing in the latest anthologies, Bearing Up and Exploring, from the Personal Story Publishing Project ( Featuring some NCWN members.

Hosted by Jason Jeffries through Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, this podcast features author interviews and more.

Charlotte Readers Podcast
Hosted by longtime NCWN member Landis Wade, this podcast features Charlotte area authors and those who visit the Queen City. Guests read from and discuss their work, including many NCWN members.

Kenyon Review Podcast
From the esteemed literary journal, recent guests have included Maureen McClane, Ann Patchett, and Shane McCrae.

Literary Latte Podcast
The podcast with a Southern accent on writing. Each episode is a jolt of inspiration fueled by engaging conversations with best-selling Southern authors and publishing industry pros who give real-world advice on the craft and business of writing. Hosted by Lynda Bouchard.

My Dad Wrote a Porno
Not new, but, as you can imagine from the title, both hilarious and naughty. Definitely R-rated, and not for those bothered by extreme sexual content, but the real highlights of this show happen when the hosts dissect the half-baked and careless writing to unearth universal lessons for how to be better writers.

A Phone Call from Paul
Also not new (in fact, it’s gone away and happily returned), but one of the best literary focused podcasts out there. Hosted by Paul Holden Graber, who literally calls literati on the telephone for wide-ranging and incredibly smart conversations about books and life.

Shitty First Drafts
From Sundress Publications, a podcast made for and by writers, which playfully investigates the creative processes of different artists to determine how a finished draft gets its polish.

The Slowdown
Five minutes of poetry every weekday. Tracy K. Smith, the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2017 to 2019, is part of the production team.

Please note, this list is far from exhaustive, and a mention here does not equal an official endorsement from NCWN.


Boost Your Freelance Career with Gigworker

We live in a gig economy. Everyone, it seems, has a side hustle—perhaps no one more so than writers, who can be notorious for foisting our newest books on friends, loved ones, and classmates we haven’t seen for thirty years.

But with so many money-making opportunities—and really, aren’t each of us busy enough already?—it can be hard to navigate a successful freelance career, no matter your chosen vocations.

That’s where Gigworker comes in. Gigworker ( is the “#1 source for all things gig-related.”

We cover a wide range of gig economy opportunities, including rideshare, delivery, scooter charging, tasks, caretaking, property rental, and everything in between.

We also provide useful information on the business side of the gig-economy, including freelance tax issues, insurance, and more.

Whether you’re looking for promo codes to earn more money or new opportunities to expand your income, GigWorker provides the information you need to gain a competitive advantage.

They’ve recently created a complete freelancing guide to help you start over from scratch; estimate how much you can expect to make; find and retain clients; and many other actionable steps.

Click here for the full guide: has a lot of other great resources as well, including a database of gig apps; resources for how to start and grow your blog; and more.

Bathanti Honored with Lee Smith Literary Award

From our friends at Lincoln Memorial University:

Joseph Bathanti

Sarrogate, TN — Joseph Bathanti received the Lee Smith Award during Lincoln Memorial University’s (LMU) 2019 Mountain Heritage Literary Festival (MHLF). The prize recognizes an individual who has worked to preserve and promote Appalachian culture.

“To win an award with Lee Smith’s name attached to it is a supreme and humbling honor,” Bathanti said. “How I love and admire her and her work.”

Bathanti is professor of English and McFarlane Family Distinguished Professor of Interdisciplinary Education and writer-in-residence of Appalachian State University’s Watauga Residential College. He served as the 2016 Charles George VA Medical Center Writer-in-Residence in Asheville, North Carolina. He is former Poet Laureate of North Carolina (2012-14) and recipient of the 2016 North Carolina Award for Literature. He served as the 2019 MHLF keynote speaker and led the poetry master class.

“When asked to recapitulate my career, I always say that my first teaching job was in a prison, and in the narrowest sense this is true,” Bathanti said in his keynote address. “What I fail to say is that my teaching in prison was in many ways the beginning of my own education. Prisons are but one shackle in the ponderous chain of group homes, halfway houses, soup kitchens, mental hospitals, domestic abuse shelters, juvenile detention centers and homeless shelters. The same characters show up in each script. It’s no secret that all social ills are intimately connected, but it’s something I had to learn by seeing it for myself.”

Bathanti is the author of ten books of poetry, including Communion Partners; Anson County; The Feast of All Saints; This Metal (nominated for the National Book Award, and winner of the Oscar Arnold Young Award); Land of Amnesia; Restoring Sacred Art (winner of the 2010 Roanoke-Chowan Award, given annually by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association for best book of poetry in a given year); Sonnets of the Cross; Concertina (winner of the 2014 Roanoke-Chowan Award); and The 13th Sunday after Pentecost, released by LSU Press in 2016.

His novel, East Liberty, won the 2001 Carolina Novel Award. His novel, Coventry, won the 2006 Novello Literary Award. His book of stories, The High Heart, won the 2006 Spokane Prize. They Changed the State: The Legacy of North Carolina’s Visiting Artists, 1971-1995, his book of nonfiction, was published in early 2007.

His recent book of personal essays, Half of What I Say Is Meaningless, winner of the Will D. Campbell Award for Creative Nonfiction, is from Mercer University Press. His novel, The Life of the World to Come, was released from University of South Carolina Press in late 2014.

The Lee Smith Award, named in honor of Appalachia’s most well-known writer [and inductee of the NC Literary Hall of Fame – ed.], spotlights those doing good work in the region. Smith’s publications include Fair and Tender Ladies, On Agate Hill, and many others. Prior recipients of the Lee Smith Award include Silas House, Earl Hamner, Jr., Sheila Kay Adams, George Ella Lyon, Beverly May, John Lang, and Pamela Duncan.

The Mountain Heritage Literary Festival, held annually in June at LMU, continues to grow and have a positive influence on the literature of Appalachia. The festival carries on the long literary tradition that exists at LMU, which claims such literary alums as James Still, Jesse Stuart, Don West, and George Scarbrough.

Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423-869-6280 or e-mail at

Raleigh Author Among Summer Okra Picks

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced their Summer 2019 Okra Picks, the twelve new books that Southern indie booksellers are most excited about this season.

Among them is Sing a Song: How Lift Every Voice and Sing Inspired Generations (Nancy Paulsen Books) by Raleigh author Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrations by Keith Mallett. Just in time for the 120th anniversary of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” this stirring book celebrates the Black National Anthem and how it inspired five generations of a family.

In 1900, in Jacksonville, Florida, two brothers, one of them the principal of a segregated, all-black school, wrote the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” so his students could sing it for a tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. From that moment on, the song has provided inspiration and solace for generations of Black families. Mothers and fathers passed it on to their children who sang it to their children and grandchildren. It has been sung during major moments of the Civil Rights Movement and at family gatherings and college graduations.

Inspired by this song’s enduring significance, Kelly Starling Lyons and Keith Mallett tell a story about the generations of families who gained hope and strength from the song’s inspiring words.

Publisher’s Weekly said:

“Lyons delivers the history of a song that has inspired generations of African-Americans to persist and resist in the face of racism and systemic oppression. . . . Vibrant, realistic illustrations and painstaking facial detail. . . . Bold colors lend emotion to scenes of hope and adversity. . . . All the while, each generation passes the lyrics along, and a final page urges readers to ‘keep singing . . . keep on keeping on.’ A heartfelt history of a historic anthem.”

Other books included in SIBA’s Summer 2019 Okra Picks include Late Migrations:  a Natural History of Love and Loss by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed Editions); The Edge of America by Jon Sealy (Haywire Books); and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (DoubleDay).

Taken together, the Okra Picks are not your average summer reading list—each book was chosen because it is Southern in nature and has devoted fans in the Southern indie bookselling community. The Summer Okra Picks release in July, August, and September, and every book on the list has a Southern bookseller ready to put it in the hands of readers with that most exciting phrase in the English language, “You’ve got to read this!”

For the complete list, click here.

Joy Harjo Named U.S. Poet Laureate

If, like me, you were on vacation last week, you might have missed the news that Joy Harjo has been named Poet Laureate of the United States. Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and the first Native American poet to serve as laureate.

The poet laureate of the United States is appointed annually by the Library of Congress. Over the course of the one-year term, which lasts from September to May, the U.S. poet laureate presents a reading and lecture at the Library of Congress and often engages in a community-oriented poetry project with national reach.

“Poetry is the art that is closest to music,” says Harjo. “Poetry is the voice of what can’t be spoken, the mode of truth-telling when meaning needs to rise above or skim below everyday language in shapes not discernible by the ordinary mind. It trumps the rhetoric of politicians. Poetry is prophetic by nature and not bound by time. Because of these qualities poetry carries grief, heartache, ecstasy, celebration, despair, or searing truth more directly than any other literary art form.”

Harjo is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (Norton, 2015), and the memoir Crazy Brave (Norton, 2012). She is the recipient of the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the 1991 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, among other honors. On Monday, Poets & Writers, the nonprofit organization that supports writers worldwide, awarded Harjo the $65,000 Jackson Poetry Prize.

Harjo follows Tracy K. Smith, who served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2018-2019.

Get Your Youth Writing this Summer

Is your child showing some interest in creative writing?

Well, god help them.

Seriously though, if so, there are many writing camps for youth and teens this summer happening all over North Carolina. We’ve listed a few below that seemingly still have open spots available!

Grades 6-11
Three sessions, June 16 – July 26
This summer marks the 36th year young writers from all over the country and around the world have been coming to Duke to craft stories, poems, plays, and essays. Every two weeks throughout the summer, approximately 100 to 120 adolescents form a creative writing community at Duke Young Writers’ Camp. They take two classes a day on such genres as fantasy and science fiction, hip hop poetry, detective fiction, argumentative essay writing, and multimedia presentations. The camp even boasts a newspaper website that puts out three editions a summer.

Grades 4-6
August 12-17
Established in 2011, the GAWC is back again with even more writing activities, strategies and projects. At this a creative writing camp held in Winston-Salem, young writers hone their skills and styles as they develop ideas into stories, poems, arguments, speeches and more. Working in groups, individually, and one-on-one with an instructor, campers begin to see how their ideas and words have a place in the world around them.

Ages 13-18
Two sessions: July 8 – 28
Spark your teen’s imagination this summer! Award-winning author and educator John Claude Bemis (The Clockwork Dark series and Out of Abaton series) will lead a writing camp at Quail Ridge Books for writers ages 13-18. Aspiring authors will engage in fun activities to turn ideas of the imagination into stories on paper (or the laptop). Campers will build a variety of writing skills and have a chance to write, share, and discuss their stories. To learn more about John, visit

Ages 9-19
July 8-19 (Young Writers) / July 22 – August 2 (Teens)
Take a journey into the world of creative writing. These two-week summer afternoon workshops are for children and teens ages 9-19. Sponsored by the English Department within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and held on NC State University’s campus, the Young and Teen Writers Workshops have been serving the community for over 32 years.

High School Students
July 9-13
The Young Writers Workshop (YWW) is an annual five-day camp that brings together up to 45 high school students to study the craft of writing on the UNC Wilmington campus. The Young Writers Workshop provides a place for aspiring writers to experiment, meet other writers, and follow their creative interests in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. YWW participants take part in daily creative writing exercises, craft lectures, writing workshops, and readings. The week offers a valuable and exciting experience for young writers interested in learning more about their craft. Although YWW students are asked to submit a work of creative writing in one genre (poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction), they receive instruction in all genres. Participants spend approximately six hours every day in writing exercises, peer workshops, and craft presentations. Students also have time to explore the UNCW campus, visit the bookstore and library, and get to know other young writers.

We didn’t list it because registration is closed, but the Young Writers’ Camp at UNCG in Greensboro is also excellent. Maybe next year? Their website is:

Happy Trails to Ben Steelman!

Ben Stetelman, Wilmington StarNews

Happy trails to Ben Steelman, who is retiring from the Wilmington StarNews after more than forty years. His last day is Friday, July 5.

Steelman is the book columnist and longtime staff reporter. He started at the paper in 1977.

There’s almost nothing we can say that isn’t said better in this inspiring profile by Scott Nunn.

Known as a fine—and fast—writer, Steelman started at the StarNews on the night copy desk. Always working on deadline, copy editors have an appreciation for reporters who can quickly turn around a story. Few have been as fast as Steelman, and none could write so fast so well. He is so well-read in so many areas that he could easily add important details and context to a story without having to look them up, a task that was not so easy in pre-internet days.

One of Steelman’s greatest achievements is the WHQR Prologue series, in which Steelman interviewed North Carolina authors  (and plenty of others) about their new books. Also, he was always eager to give ink to NCWN conferences and events, and to talk with faculty members of ours, so that the greater Wilmington community stayed up-to-date on all the literary goings on.

“He is part of that vanishing breed, the journalist-intellectual,” says author Philip Gerard, “who brings both reason and a reliable moral compass to his work and makes the community better by his presence and his words.”

Steelman wrote a column in 2017 marking his fortieth anniversary at the paper.

Forty years … it doesn’t seem that long. I didn’t really plan on hanging on; by now, I expected, I’d have moved on to a big paper or a New York magazine, or to a cabin in Vermont where I’d be writing my next bestseller.

But none of that happened, so here I am. I hate writing resumes and filling in job applications. Also, I was getting paid to live near the beach, in a pretty old town.

Plus, working at the StarNews turned out to be a lot of fun—and it still is.

Sounds like he’ll be keeping a desk at the newspaper and still write from time to time for StarNews Media, so he’ll still be around. However, we wanted to offer this public thanks—few have championed the literary arts in North Carolina longer and or with more enthusiasm than Ben Steelman.

We are forever grateful.